Kids love the outdoors, digging, playing in water and getting dirty. Why not combine those activities and make a garden together? Encourage your child to be involved in all parts of the planting, growing, and harvesting process – here are some ideas for fun gardening projects with your kids.
Buy your child his or her own set of garden gloves and a trowel to help with the planting. And don’t forget a watering can to keep the plants growing.
When thinking about what to plant, consider size, color, and what it produces. For seed planting, choose big, easy to handle, and quick-to-germinate seeds (such as beans, radishes, sunflowers, dwarf nasturtiums, and zinnia). Morning Glories are vining flowers that open every morning, and start growing quickly. Sunflowers are persistent and can grow very big. Tomatoes grow upright, need little space to grow, require little care, and are easy to determine ripeness. Potatoes are great to teach patience because you cannot see them grow, and lots of fun to dig up when it is time. Pumpkins grow large and are bright in color, and great to watch them grow. Also consider growing plants that produce foods your child enjoys eating, such as pea pods, squash, cucumbers, and pizza ingredients. There are many plants kids would enjoy growing, these are just a couple of examples.
Let you kids help plant the seeds. You can talk about where to put which ones. Then have your child drop the seeds in and put the dirt back on top. You can also ask your child to make plant identification signs using popsicle sticks and poster board.
Let your kids enjoy the benefits of growing your own garden by having them help you pick the fruits and veggies. You can first talk about which ones are ripe and how to tell. Peas, pole beans, cherry tomatoes, radishes, strawberries, and raspberries can all be eaten directly from the plants.
Your child may enjoy choosing specific flowers to plant, based on the color, shape, scent, or size. When the flowers are in full bloom, let them help you cut them and create a bouquet to bring indoors or give to a special person. Also consider choosing flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds (annuals such as cosmos, zinnias, verbena, and cleome attract both).
To personalize and decorate the garden, have each child make a stepping stone. There are many options of kits available in crafts stores. You can purchase embellishments, or collect some of your own (seashells, rocks, leaf impressions, etc).
At the end of the season, have your kids help harvest seeds for next year. Have them personalize the seed packets with markers or crayons, and include a photo. You can take photos of the plants or find images in catalogs, magazines, or online. Start collecting the seeds in late August.
As a parent, keep in mind that when gardening with your child, there will be many messes, such as spilled dirt and water, maybe tipped plants and dumped seeds. And that’s okay; it’s part of the learning for your child. It’s important to let your child help with as much as is age appropriate and he or she is interested in helping with.